Workaholic Geeky Nonsense

The semester is about to start. Which means that the summer is over. Which means that, in order to fully get into all the fall proposal writing around all the undergrad course teaching and insane service, I have to get these last two papers done and submitted, like, yesterday.

So…

Over the past few days, I worked  12-14 hour every day. Really focused, high-productivity, long days. I fuckin’ loved it. I love working non-stop, and if it were possible to somehow forgo sleep, at least temporarily, without loss of sanity of productivity, I would love to be able to just go-go-go.

Man, I love working.

When I don’t waste my time and energy worrying about whether or not I am appropriately recognized and admired, the bottom line is that I love reading papers, looking at data, analyzing data, coming up with mathematical models and appropriate algorithms for their numerical implementation, troubleshooting, making graphs, writing papers, and talking with graduate student about every single one of these aspects of my job.

I love doing science.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am actually a good role model for inspiring people to leave academia. More than one student has said that seeing me and the insane schedule that I keep has convinced them that mine is a job they don’t want.

I read all the time all around the web about there being a surplus of PhDs who all think they will be professors, who are then all surprised when that proves impossible and are also for some reason oblivious to the fact that there are other things they can do. Apparently, I do my part — without even trying! — to discourage young’uns from pursuing an academic career ; the few who were not discouraged have done very well for themselves!

I don’t know what it is that other professors do that (supposedly) makes all of their students and postdocs think they want the professor’s job and there is nothing else. I bet the professors look really cool while doing their job. Luckily, I never look cool, especially not while doing my job.

How do I achieve this elusive goal of discouraging all but a few? You can do it, too!
Look sleep-deprived and incessantly drink coffee, having mild panic  attacks when a coffee cup approaches empty. Send emails before 7 am and after 11 pm. Respond to their emails immediately no matter what time of day or week. Share with them when the deadlines are and name all the things that depend upon certain grants being renewed (their food, shelter, tuition, and health benefits). Work with them closely on every paper and proposal and let them know how much effort goes really, truly into every piece that is meant to be read and understood by others while bearing your signature. Keep track of all the details of all of their many very different projects in your head and be able to give each of their talks at a moment’s notice with no prep whatsoever. Push them to do better and lift them up and don’t let them give up on themselves or their work. Forward them emails from industrial collaborators about job openings. Encourage them to attend all manner of professional workshops to broaden their soft skill set. Sleep less than any of them and take less vacation than any of them.

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In life, there are various quantifiable aspects that change over time. More often than not, it’s not the value of the function that we care about, as much as the sign of the first derivative. Sometimes a positive first derivative is good, sometimes a negative one.

ComicAug28_2014_Derivative

If anyone tells you that calculus is stupid or useless, you can print this post, crumble it into a ball, and shove said ball into the mouth of the heretic spouting such nonsense. Calculus is an almost absolute goodness, only surpassed by complex calculus... And calculus on spheres, donuts, and other cool objects, also known as differential geometry… *geekgasmic sigh*

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You know how The Oatmeal made me grumpy the other day? It’s all forgiven, as I came across an old classic — The Motherfucking Pterodactyl comic. And there is even a song (below)! It is hilarious,  but view at your own peril.

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Lastly, among the comments to the last post emerged the awesomeness that is this guide to acting like a Minnesotan. It has a very Monty Python feel!

http://www.mnvideovault.org/mvvPlayer/customPlaylist2.php?id=15519&select_index=7&popup=yes#0

5 comments

  1. Last night I went to a work party by one of my midwestern colleagues and came home with a lot of food (they had enough left for 2 or 3 more parties of the same size, and nothing ran out). That “don’t go” thing must be Minnesotan though. I helped set up (catering), but didn’t help take down. It was 2 hours because it was a work party, not a fun party! Which is why it was on a school night instead of a Friday…

    I don’t like working more than 8-10 hours a day. I think when I’m getting more sleep again I’ll be able to do longer hauls. But I’m not sure I want to. I really hate anxiety. I prefer steadily working to having intense shifts before a deadline. I should get to work now.

  2. Wow, I want to be you. I think you must be feeling fairly regular or steady progress to get so revved up to work 12-14 h. Is that right? When I can’t figure out what’s going on in my in silico/theoretical experiments, I have trouble pulling 8 h/day. (Thinking is hard, and I worry I’m introducing more mistakes when it’s late.) It must also be fun to do work that is more social. I don’t have a postdoc yet and am getting my first grad student in a few weeks.

  3. Also, I think research would be more fun with tenure. Every time I run into a roadblock, I’m like, “Oh no, if I don’t figure this out ASAP and publish I won’t get tenure!”, and that keeps me from enjoying the research. But you proposed a remedy in another post… just run with the time and resources I have and don’t worry.

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